Having three daughters under the age of seven, New Year’s Eve is a trying occasion. For two years our eldest daughter has wanted to stay awake until midnight. Although I respect her more literal interpretation of Matthew 25:13 (keep awake therefore . . . ), we end up carrying her to bed roundabout half-past ten. In response, we celebrate “Noon Year’s Eve,” a countdown to welcome the new year . . . just before lunch. One of the things I love about this tradition, outside of good night’s sleep, is that this so easily translates into the “grown-up” world.
Even though the Christian New Year begins with Advent, everyday is a good day to ponder being made new by the grace of God, and just before lunch is a great time to do it. Undoubtedly the flood of New Year advice will be overwhelming: diet, exercise, study, stop smoking, save money . . . all of which is wonderful advice; so I invite you everyday at noon to stop and pray. I will admit that my favorite time to pray is when I first awake (actually, it’s after I’ve had coffee . . . remember the three girls under seven-years-old?), but I often find myself just sitting in silence—not in a meditative, Taize kind of way. I sit there in a, “I wonder if there’s an email waiting for me,” or “I wonder if someone threw up in their bed last night and the stomach bug is in our future today,” kind of way. Praying at noon is late enough in the day to feel like you have something to talk to God about. Praying at noon also is early enough in the day for the day to be redeemed (haven’t you wished you could start the day over?).
So, what should I pray at noon? Well, I have at least three suggestions. One is to say your name silently to yourself, and take note of what image you see. Do you see a self-portrait? Do you see only the office? Maybe you see a word like “success” or “failure?” This is a quick way to see “how it is with your soul,” as the early Methodists would ask in class meetings. Then, sit in silence, in a meditative, let-the-world-spin-without-me kind of way. Second, I would suggest praying Psalm 51—“Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your holy spirit from me.” The folks at the Well might offer a third option: praying the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
Why sell New Year’s Eve short? God’s grace is at work in us, making us new, making us whole, each and every day. Accept it! Live into it! Don’t let God’s gracious gift go to waste!